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Enterprise & Society 4.3 (2003) 573-575

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Ellen Israel Rosen. Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. xi + 336 pp. ISBN 0-520-23336-0, $55.00 (cloth); 0-520-23337-9, $21.95 (paper).

Ellen Israel Rosen, in Making Sweatshops, examines the U.S. and global apparel industry from a historical and theoretical perspective. Rosen has extensively specified the gendered nature of labor markets, especially in the apparel and related industries, in previous research. Whereas earlier the focus was industry-specific and domestic, now her attention shifts to the political economy of trade and development related to the textile-apparel-retail complex.

According to Rosen, sweatshops are workplaces that feature low-wage work and working conditions below generally accepted minimum standards. They develop and flourish in contexts of rapid job loss, movement of jobs within and across nations, and extensive industrial restructuring. Industries in the complex are labor-intensive and are dominated by female workers. Prevailing practices and conditions are not explained through the brute logic of power exerted by corporations internal to a nation, but rather by complex and shifting alliances of government and corporate actors both at home and abroad.

Rosen directly relates the two phases of trade liberalization in the apparel complex since World War II to U.S. foreign policies and domestic industrial policies—with globalization of sweatshops reflected in the current phase of dominance of transnational corporations and reduced protection for domestic-oriented corporations. In addition, Rosen aims to explain the larger causes and effects of sweatshops, and she does not describe only their manifest functions and consequences for powerful industry actors and societies. Evaluated on these terms, the book clearly transcends earlier approaches and makes an important contribution by shifting our specialized explanations into more multidisciplinary and global ones. Using Rosen's logic, [End Page 573] markets are not a result of an invisible hand but are organized through political mobilization. The rules of trade and development and the processes of globalization must be managed to promote more equitable and less harmful development.

This book places the markets of the apparel industry within their broader contexts and aims to explain the transformation of the industry through an examination of the political, economic, and, to a lesser extent, social dynamics. Sweatshops did and do exist in the United States, but their re-emergence in the United States after deindustrialization and their globalization cannot be attributed solely to the movement of the U.S. apparel industry to low-wage countries or to competition from abroad. Rather, sweatshops develop and are allowed to exist because they serve the interests of powerful actors, in both business and government, and are actively legitimized as only temporary and necessary sacrifices for industrialization and development. Their geographical and socioeconomic distribution within and across nations is strongly influenced by extra-market factors, particularly political and economic power. Rosen also suggests social and cultural forces as being directly important to the gendered international division of labor, but she focuses less attention on analyzing the influence of those forces.

Rosen directly links trade and investment policies with foreign policies and suggests globalization is critical to understanding these linkages. Newer forms of globalization accelerated the growth of transnational corporations and their power and influence on policies, whereas older forms were more directly based on foreign policy objectives. Cold War politics dictated that trade policies reflect the national interest, with reduced protection provided for textile and apparel producers. Today, export-led development strategies and trade policies generally protect and benefit larger and more vertically integrated firms in the complex. The balance of power between business and government has shifted as well, with governments less able to offer a countervailing force to globally mobile corporations.

Though the analysis is descriptive and explanatory, economic and social justice concerns are also addressed. Rosen directly challenges proponents of the neoliberal paradigm, especially their neglect of the distributional effects of trade and development policies. Her focus is on how the interaction of political and economic forces, both domestic and international...


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